A small Siouxland community that gave a lot, Castana

27 Oct

While out driving around the Siouxland area in the Loess Hills region of Northwest Iowa, I passed through the small community of Castana, which in its heyday, like a lot of other now smaller Iowa communities, was bustling when first settled.

The Monona County Economic Development website lists this information: ” Population 147, Castana was platted on July 24, 1886.  When a branch of Chicago Northwestern Railway connected Castana traders with the latest goods and services.  Castana was named by the founder, for what he believed to be the Latin word for chestnuts. “Geocaching” fans will find Castana at a latitude of 42.074N and  longitude -95.908  Castana is loaded with attractions and recreation areas.  Western Iowa Experimental Farm near Castana was established in 1946 for the development of agriculture in the Loess Hills.  Loess Hills Wildlife Area and Sylvan Runkel Preserve is the location of the annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar.  Composed of approximately 3000 acres of native prairie and woodland area it offers the best hiking, bird watching, and primitive camping. The Loess Hills Ranch & Winery is located at the Timber Ridge Recreation area in rural Castana.
Castana City Hall, 103 Pine St., Castana, Iowa 51010,Phone: 712-353-6747.

The City of Castana has this information on its website: “In the summer of 1866 A. G. Hammond of Hartford, Conn., purchased two hundred acres of land, on sections 23 & 24 of James M. Kelsey, and engaged J. B. P. Day to build a store building and a hotel the following spring. However, during the winter Mr. Hammond died and Messrs. Day & Co. (F. A. & J. B. P.) purchased the land and lumber, and during the summer of 1867 built the store and dwelling combined which was the Old Castana headquarters. The building was completed by July 4, and a big crowd gathered there… A first-class violinist traveling west in company with S.C. Hoadley could play any tune and the party held out until morning.  The Castana post office was established September 11, 1865, with A. J. Hathaway as Postmaster. It was moved to the store in 1867 and F. L. Day appointed Postmaster, who was succeeded in 1869 by F. A. Day. In 1872 there were the following businesses in Old Castana; a blacksmith shop, two stores, and an agricultural implement depot of Penn Bros. & Co. Also mentioned is a Methodist parsonage with Hathaway’s mill close by.  The first baseball club was organized here by Geo. W. Penn in 1872. On July 4, 1873 the “Grange” had a big gathering here. A six-pound cannon was brought for the occasion and the day opened big with a heavy shower about 1 O’clock and broke up the meeting.  In connection with the A. G. Hammond purchase, the American Emigrant Company had made a donation to the county of $2,000 for school purposes and the board of supervisors selected the bench on section 23, as a site for an academy. The movement at this point awoke the jealousy of parties interested in Belvidere and other points and the result was the abandonment of the whole matter and the funds diverted to other projects.  Castana is one of Monona County’s most enterprising towns, located near the center of the county in Kennebec Township, on land purchased by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company by the Western Town Lot Company in the early summer of 1886, the survey being completed by July 15, the deed of dedication and the platt bearing the date of July 24, and filed for record July 29, 1886. The town is a distance of about 12 miles from Onawa, the county seat, and about 50 miles from Sioux City, the nearest jobbing point.  The first building erected was the warehouse of Day & Co., just back of their store. This was put up in July, 1886. It is located on the rear of lot 1, block 6, and was put up by J. B. P. Day. The railroad track was laid past the depot grounds April 12.

It was a little after lunch and so I pulled into a park area to eat something I had packed. At the park is a war memorial. A wooden wall held in place by two by fours planted into the ground behind it. A former archway into a local bank (there are no banks there now) sets the memorial off with its marble columns and brick walls. The memorial wall lists all service people killed beginning with the Civil War, and through the Gulf War. There are a lot of names, too many names for a place this size to have sacrificed so many of its sons. I didn’t see anyone there that day so didn’t get a chance to ask questions about the memorial. But however plain it might appear, the long list of names tells a very humbling story.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

 

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